Anglo-Scandinavian cross, St Mary's churchyard


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012670

Date first listed: 13-Nov-1963

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Jun-1995


Ordnance survey map of Anglo-Scandinavian cross, St Mary's churchyard
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Staffordshire

District: East Staffordshire (District Authority)

Parish: Rolleston on Dove

National Grid Reference: SK 23548 27718


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

High crosses, frequently heavily decorated, were erected in a variety of locations in the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries AD. They are found throughout northern England with a few examples further south. Surviving examples are of carved stone but it is known that decorated timber crosses were also used for similar purposes and some stone crosses display evidence of carpentry techniques in their creation and adornment, attesting to this tradition. High crosses have shafts supporting carved cross heads which may be either free-armed or infilled with a 'wheel' or disc. They may be set within dressed or rough stone bases called socles. The cross heads were frequently small, the broad cross shaft being the main feature of the cross. High crosses served a variety of functions, some being associated with established churches and monasteries and playing a role in religious services, some acting as cenotaphs or marking burial places, and others marking routes or boundaries and acting as meeting places for local communities. Decoration of high crosses divides into four main types: plant scrolls, plaiting and interlace, birds and animals and, lastly, figural representation which is the rarest category and often takes the form of religious iconography. The carved ornamentation was often painted in a variety of colours though traces of these pigments now survive only rarely. The earliest high crosses were created and erected by the native population, probably under the direction of the Church, but later examples were often commissioned by secular patrons and reflect the art styles and mythology of Viking settlers. Several distinct regional groupings and types of high cross have been identified, some being the product of single schools of craftsmen. There are fewer than 50 high crosses surviving in England and this is likely to represent only a small proportion of those originally erected. Some were defaced or destroyed during bouts of iconoclasm during the 16th and 17th centuries. Others fell out of use and were taken down and reused in new building works. They provide important insights into art traditions and changing art styles during the early medieval period, into religious beliefs during the same era and into the impact of the Scandinavian settlement of the north of England. All well-preserved examples are identified as nationally important.

The Anglo-Scandinavian cross at Rolleston survives well and is the only known Staffordshire example of a cross with a complete cross-head which remains attached to its shaft. The Scandinavian-influenced decoration on both the shaft and the head provide an important contribution towards an understanding of the regional and chronological variations in the design of early medieval crosses. While the cross-head and part of the shaft survive from the early medieval period, its erection in the churchyard and subsequent restoration illustrate its continued function as a standing monument and public amenity.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes an Anglo-Scandinavian stone cross located in the churchyard of St Mary's Church, Rolleston, 0.75m west of the church. The cross is of stepped form and is early medieval and modern in date. The monument includes the base, consisting of a plinth and two steps, of late 19th century date; and an early medieval shaft and cross-head which have been carved from a single block of stone. The steps are rectangular in plan and rest on a stone plinth. The shaft has been erected on the upper step and has a tapering, rectangular section. The shaft stands 0.9m high and is believed to represent the upper part of the early medieval cross-shaft. The southern face of the shaft retains evidence of decoration in the form of a plaitwork interlacement enclosed within a panel; while the faint outline of a rectangular panel can be distinguished on the western face. The cross-head is of the ringed type and has a diameter of 0.92m. Its four arms are not continuous but end as curled knobs at the extremeties. These join with one another, and the arms thus form, on the outside, an indented circle. The outer circumference of the lower part of the head is ornamented with single cord interlacement set within moulded panels and slight traces of an interlacing triquetra (an ornament of three interlaced arcs) are visible on the southern arm. The western face of the cross-head is decorated with a carved central boss and an encircling ring. The full height of the cross is approximately 2.3m. The protected area includes a 1m margin around the north, west and east sides of the cross.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 21600

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Pape, T, 'Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club' in Rectangular-shafted pre-Norman crosses of North Staffordshire, , Vol. 81, (1947), 45

End of official listing